What Do Hockey Skate Blades Look Like in Double-Overtime?

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Imagine the beating the hockey skate blades of the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins took last night in double-OT game 7 on the cusp of the Stanley Cup finals!!

A hockey referee since I was 14 (my passion when I’m not making amazing macrophotography), I’ve often wondered how much difference skate sharpening makes. I usually go an entire hockey season without sharpening my skates, while some of my fellow refs get theirs sharpened every couple of years.

Being May, it’s the end of the hockey season, and the last time I sharpened my skates was about 50 games ago. I decided to use the Magnify2 from GIGAmacro to find out just how much difference sharpening makes.

I set up my robotic macro imaging system for two areas on my hockey skate blade; shown here are the high-resolution images of my skate blade before and after sharpening. You can zoom in and out on these images.

The deep focus capabilities of the Magnify2 allows the entire image to be in focus even though the depth of field at this magnification is only 0.017 inches.

The first set of two images shows the blade – before and after sharpening – where the blade sits at an angle (oblique) so both edges are visible from the side.

The second set of two images shows the bottom of the blade, straight on – before and after sharpening – for a better look at surface deformation.

These oblique images show both edges of the skate blade. The unsharpened skate shows visible nicks along both edges and many imperfections. In particular, the many cross longitudinal scratches would increase friction which is counter-productive.

These bottom images show, in more detail, differences between the sharp and unsharpened blades. The large number of counterproductive abrasions is clearly visible, but also the surface finish appears to be very different. The sharpened blade is very reflective, indicating a smooth surface while the unsharpened blade has a dull surface suggesting more friction.

While these images clearly show that newly sharpened skates should be more efficient, I probably will not start sharpening my own hockey skates more often, because:

  • I don’t like the feeling of overly sharp skates and how they grab the ice.
  • I often find inconsistent results from sharpening and I worry about poor edges right after sharpening. After a few games, any inconsistencies often work themselves out and I don’t want to go back to breaking them in again.
  • I’m lazy and I don’t like taking the extra time to get my skates sharpened!

How often do you sharpen your skates? Did these images help you to justify your sharpening frequency. or did they change your mind?

P.S. Proud of the Ottawa Senators for making it so far in the NHL post-season; you show that having heart cannot be underestimated, even (especially?) in the playoffs!